When Should Your Child Get Braces?

I have been practicing dentistry for 35 years and have witnessed many changes in materials, instrumentation, and basic thought processes on many areas of dentistry. One of the biggest philosophy changes is with regard to braces.

When I was growing up I had braces put on at age 12. My younger brother and sister also had braces put on about that age. We all had over -bites which were corrected, with treatment going 2-2.5 years.

Orthodontic Trends

After I became a dentist I started noticing young patients being seen by the orthodontist at age 6 or 7. Is this purely  from an economic viewpoint for orthodontists to start getting patients and filling up their book?

Depending on where the orthodontist was trained there are different ideas on when to start and even how to best treat patients with regard to extractions to make room for straightening out the teeth, as opposed to no extractions. There are also a few torture devices like palate expanders and head gear. These may have been improved over the years, but I’m sure glad I don’t need to wear the head gear again.

Orthodontic Referrals

In Atlanta, when I refer my patient to an orthodontist, there is usually no charge, and the orthodontist can give a recommendation. Most of the time they recommend that the parent bring the child back anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to have a further evaluation. The overbites and buck teeth usually do not need to be started until age 12, much like my own condition. This aspect has not changed. But when a crossbite is present (that’s when a lower tooth or teeth are outside the upper teeth in the arch), or when a skeletal deformity like a large lower jaw is present, there are procedures that can avoid later surgery. One such procedure is to wear a palatal expander which is successful many times during the growing years. In any case, early intervention can avoid surgery in some cases.